Social Science Courses / Course / Chapter

What is Citizen Journalism?

Mallory Ogea, Summer Stewart
  • Author
    Mallory Ogea

    Mallory Ogea has taught various English, Communications, and business technology courses in grades 9-12 for over 5 years. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Arts in Communications from Louisiana State University. She also has her Louisiana and Texas teacher certifications for English grades 6-12.

  • Instructor
    Summer Stewart

    Summer has taught creative writing and sciences at the college level. She holds an MFA in Creative writing and a B.A.S. in English and Nutrition

Explore citizen journalism. Learn the definition of citizen journalism and understand its importance. Discover important examples of citizen journalism in use. Updated: 03/03/2022

Table of Contents


What is Citizen Journalism?

Citizen journalism, sometimes referred to as participatory journalism, can be defined as news gathered and reported by everyday citizens (nonjournalists) not employed by news organizations, such as newspapers, magazines, broadcast television, and radio. This form of news is often presented through social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. One of the popularly used tools by citizen journalists are smartphones. Citizen journalism can be broken into six types: audience participation, independent news or information websites, participatory news sites, collaborative and contributory news, thin media, and personal broadcasting sites. Some say that citizen journalists are commentators that originally discovered American journalism. The legacy or traditional news follows the format of "one provider to many consumers;" however, citizen journalism provides more sources for information.

The six types of citizen journalism can be defined as follows:

Audience Participation

  • These are comments seen on various legacy news story posts on social media.

Independent news or information websites

  • These websites are created by citizen journalists themselves and are not associated with a particular news outlet.

"Participatory news sites

  • Sites such as Northwest Voice that allow citizens to publish news in a newspaper format.

Collaborative and contributory news sites

  • Sites such as feature content based on reader contributions.

Thin media

  • This form of media is commonly seen in email newsletters that focus on a specific interest.

Personal broadcasting sites

  • These sites use video or audio based formatting to reach an audience on a specific area of interest.

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Citizen Journalism: Advantages & Disadvantages

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:00 Spreading the News
  • 0:36 Citizen Journalism
  • 1:09 Examples
  • 3:25 Lesson Summary
Save Timeline
Speed Speed

Importance of Citizen Journalism

The importance of citizen journalism is that it is intended to bridge the gaps created by traditional news outlets and create more sources of information. The main goal of citizen journalism is to reach local communities with news that even local newspapers and broadcast stations are unable to get to. The target audience for citizen journalism are those that do not feel as though regular news sources have adequately served them. Think about it, more often than not a witness of something newsworthy will record and post of their experience on a social media platform before any news outlet has even been able to get their hands on the story. Without even realizing it, this person has just participated in citizen journalism.

The internet has created a platform for citizen journalism to thrive. Sites such as YouTube and SoundCloud have made it possible for people to reach a broader audience and voice their story through video and audio production.

These same platforms have even created a new way for politicians to reach their target audience during elections. During the 2016 U.S. presidential election, businessman and Republican Party member Donald Trump ran against former Secretary of State and Democrat Hillary Clinton. Both party members participated in campaign advertising via social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter. Both social media sources also broadcast presidential debates in real-time. The videos were later posted to these sites where a person could go back and watch them, along with posts made by the politicians themselves. Through these social media platforms citizen journalism is able to create a public archive of information to help voters make a more informed decision during election season.

Citizen Journalism Examples

The following are examples of citizen journalism:

Assassination of John F. Kennedy

Abraham Zapruder is remembered for having recorded the assassination of President Kennedy with his home move camera. This is one of the first notable instances of citizen journalism. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy took place on November 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas. The film, only 26 seconds in length, unexpectedly captures the president's assassination. This footage was paramount in the investigation that followed the president's death. Before this incident, Zapruder was your everyday citizen, but because of what he captured that day, he became a pioneer in the field of citizen journalism.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is Abraham Zapruder important to the history of citizen journalism?

Abraham Zapruder unintentionally recorded the assassination of President Kennedy with his home movie camera. He later shared this footage to traditional news outlets, such as newspapers and local news stations. It is this moment of recording this unforgettable event in history that labeled Zapruder as the pioneer of citizen journalism.

What does the term citizen journalism usually refer to?

Citizen journalism is the collecting and reporting of news by everyday citizens (nonjournalists). This information is generally posted to some form of nontraditional media, such as social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, via a smartphone.

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back

Resources created by teachers for teachers

Over 30,000 video lessons & teaching resources‐all in one place.
Video lessons
Quizzes & Worksheets
Classroom Integration
Lesson Plans

I would definitely recommend to my colleagues. It’s like a teacher waved a magic wand and did the work for me. I feel like it’s a lifeline.

Jennifer B.
Jennifer B.
Create an account to start this course today
Used by over 30 million students worldwide
Create an account